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Easter Sunday

posted Apr 12, 2020, 3:48 PM by Dom Anselm Marie   [ updated Apr 20, 2020, 5:02 AM ]
The Cure

Much is made these days of finding a cure for ills that have befallen humankind, to prevent death and alleviate suffering. Men look to immediate causes of disease and poverty, but fail to discern their ultimate cause.

For the ultimate cause of suffering and death is sin. In Eden, Our Lord warned our first parents Adam and Eve, to stay far away from any encounter with, any knowledge of evil, lest they surely die. But drawing too near, they were exposed to the malevolence and lies of a cunning enemy and infected with a deadly contagion that they transmitted to their children and their descendants. That day they died what Saint John Chrysostom calls the first death, the loss in their soul of the life of grace, to be followed later and inexorably by the second death, the loss of life in their body. From the moment they sinned, all of humanity was doomed. To the first death, original sin: Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum, et in peccatis concepit me mater mea, laments the Psalmist, ‘For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.’ And to the second death, whether from disease or injury, or crime or old age, what has come to be called a ‘natural’ death.

It is with this second death that men are most often preoccupied. Witness the morbid tabulation of it in our day. Even Christians on this Feast of Our Lord’s Resurrection think more readily of the death of the body than of the death of the soul. Though we profess to believe in the supernatural, we too easily adopt the perspective of those who do not, of those who fear the death of the body more than the supernatural death of the soul.

But as Christians, we are called to adopt a supernatural perspective, to act upon and live our lives for supernatural reasons.

We believe, of course, that Our Lord rose from the dead, ‘on the third day,’ we recite in the Creed. And later in it we express our belief in the resurrection of the dead. But these do not mean the same thing. Christ was not the first to rise from the dead. A few weeks before His own passion and death, Our Lord raised His friend Lazarus from the dead. And before that, the daughter of Jarius, and the son of the widow of Naïm. And centuries before that, at the prayer of the prophet Elijah, another widow’s son was brought back to life.

What differs about Christ’s resurrection, besides the fact that He raised Himself from the dead, is the manner and meaning of His death. The others were sinners succumbed to the inexorable consequence of sin, subject to that punishment for that crime against God. Christ, however, was innocent, sinless, yet He was deliberately condemned by conspiring believers who worshiped the true God, but chose to put His Incarnate Son to death.

Yes, dear Faithful, that is the horror of sin. But before we accuse in our minds any perfidious or hypocritical religious leaders of past or present, let us turn the gaze of our conscience upon ourselves. It is for our sins that Christ died, for each and every one of our own personal sins and our guilt for them. Sin is the cause not only of our own death, the supernatural death of our soul and the inevitable death of our body, but sin – our sin – is the cause of Christ’s death too.

So the meaning of Christ’s passion and death is different from the meaning of our suffering and death. And different too the meaning of His Resurrection. Our resurrection, like our death, is inevitable and universal. All will die, and all will be raised again on the last day. Our Lord’s resurrection on Easter Sunday, however, like His death, is not required, but a free choice, made out of love, fulfilling not only justice, but also mercy. Christ’s Resurrection is a sign of hope.

And we Christians are supposed to hope; we are supposed to believe in signs. But again, too often we miss the supernatural for the natural. We are like the women that early morning, spices in hand, wondering who will help them move the heavy stone that seals the tomb where they expect to find a corpse. We are like the Apostles they call, who peer inside and who, Saint John writes in his account, at first do not understand the prophecy.

They saw an empty tomb. We too see signs. At Easter we often see an empty baptismal font, from where catechumens have emerged neophytes, or an empty confessional from where sinners have emerged absolved. As Christians we are supposed to believe these and others are ‘signs instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ, that give grace,’ as catechumens should be taught. These sacraments are signs of hope, like Our Lord’s Resurrection, because they too bring the dead back to life. They are greater miracles than the resurrection of Lazarus because they restore not natural, but supernatural life. They are signs of hope like Our Lord’s Transfiguration, recounted for us the second Sunday in Lent, that just as on Mount Tabor Our Lord’s humanity is glorified by His Divinity, because He is the Beloved Son in Whom God is well pleased, so too our own humanity can be glorified by Christ’s divinity; we too, beloved, can please God.

Lazarus and the others remained mortal, but the Risen Christ is glorified, never again to suffer or die. We too remain mortal. We too continue to suffer. How much again are we reminded of this in our day. Suffering and death remain because sin remains. Because our capacity to sin remains.

How then can Our Lord’s Resurrection be a sign of hope, or the Sacraments?

Because, dear Faithful, they are a cure. Not merely a remedy, they do more than alleviate suffering and death. They cure the cause. Our Lord’s Resurrection, and the Sacraments, are the cure for suffering and death – all suffering and death – because they cure the cause of all suffering and death, because they cure sin. Through them, the Lamb of God takes away sin, takes away and prevents sin. And not just this or that sin, but all sin. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world, the whole world. Our Lord’s Resurrection and the Sacraments are signs of hope and signs that, with certitude, give grace. And grace is life, the life of God Himself. Supernatural life. Supernatural life restored. Supernatural life sustained and fortified and multiplied.

Moreover if received with the proper disposition, that grace, that supernatural, divine life can be confirmed. Our soul can be glorified like Our Divine Redeemer after His Resurrection, and grace in it confirmed by the Sacraments, so that our soul’s supernatural life can never be lost again.

What greater hope, dear Faithful, than the hope of supernatural immortality, the hope to sin no more, never again to offend God, but to be pleasing to Him now and forever more?

Yes, dear Faithful, NOW! That is the meaning of Our Lord’s Resurrection. That is the hope of the Sacraments. That is the cure for all our ills! Never, never ever let anyone tell you the Sacraments are not essential, or that it is not essential to be present where Our Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament offered in worship and the celebration of His Resurrection on Easter and every Sunday. Nothing, nothing could be more essential, more necessary! Nothing, nothing could ever do more to overcome any crisis!

But to know that, we need to see the supernatural that the world does not see. We need to believe and hope and love the paschal mystery. At the Easter Vigil, the Deacon blesses the Paschal Candle, symbol before us today and throughout Paschaltide, of the Risen Christ, the Light shining in the darkness that knows It not. As part of that blessing, the Deacon pierces the candle with spikes holding blessed grains of incense, five spikes in the form of a cross, symbolizing the wounds inflicted on Christ during His Passion. Vulnera, in Latin, from which the English word vulnerable is derived. One who is vulnerable can be hurt, can suffer, can die. Wounds are marks that one has indeed been hurt, that one has suffered. And on the Risen Christ, wounds also mean that He died.

So if Our Lord’s Resurrection is a sign of hope for a cure for all suffering and death and sin, why do those wounds remain? Why does the Deacon pierce the Paschal Candle? Why are Christians still wounded who receive the Sacraments and grace? Why do some great saints bear the marks of the wounds of Christ? Why are saints not afraid to be stigmatized?

In the lesson from his epistle to the Colossians read today at the Hour of None, Saint Paul shows us where to get these answers: ‘Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.’